Music

An Oral History of Club Dredd: The Place That Pinoy Rock Called Home

“The ‘Dredd years’ are still very much with all of us”
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For people who never got to step foot inside it, Club Dredd will always remain more a myth than reality; a place where magic and mayhem (and lots of other things) happened which they would never get to experience for themselves.

But for those fortunate enough to have contributed their footsteps on its floors, their voices on its walls (and heck, even their piss on its bathroom stalls), it was home. Manila’s answer to legendary rock venues like CBGB in New York, The Hacienda in Manchester and Whisky a Go Go in California, Club Dredd provided a venue for countless local music acts to play and be heard. Name a popular local band that got their start in the late 80s and 90s and there’s more than a good chance that they played in Dredd.

Opened in December 8, 1990 (the 10th anniversary of John Lennon’s death), Club Dredd served patrons and musicians at its original location in Scout Tobias, Quezon City for three years before it closed down in February 1993. One year later, it reopened in EDSA-Cubao, where it continued to attract rakistas in their black-T-shirt-best looking for genuine, homegrown Pinoy rock. It closed down once again in June 1998. Club Dredd popped up once more in March 2006 in the swanky neighborhood of Eastwood, although, for many people, it just wasn’t the same.

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Within the hot, dark, cramped corners of the original Club Dredd in Timog and the one in EDSA, talent was discovered, genius was polished and friendships were formed. And, of course, beer—copius amounts of it—was consumed.

Patrick Reidenbach and Robbie Sunico were the men responsible for bringing to life the little club that would become an integral part of the history of Filipino rock. In this interview, Reidenbach, who now manages an IT company, talks about the beginnings of Club Dredd, how he and Sunico made it happen, why it had to close down and what he thinks about its enduring legacy.

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What were you doing before the Dredd years?

I was playing drums for a couple of bands in the late '80s and early '90s, Nomad and The Skavengers. I also had a sound system, which I rented out to Red Rocks. Rob was a regular there, and manager of The Skavengers. We ended up handling the band bookings as well.

When and how did the idea about opening a live music venue first occur to you and Robbie? 

When Red Rocks went out of business, the community around it had no place to play anymore. Unlike now, where you have many bars featuring bands, at the time there were no other venues for them. Rob and I thought we could continue what Red Rocks started. 

How did you make it happen? How easy/difficult was it to open Dredd? What sort of challenges did you encounter before you opened?

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The primary challenge was money. We had to convince our families to put in the investment. For example, Domeng Gamboa was originally supposed to be a third partner, but backed out last minute when his family nixed the idea. The second challenge was to find a venue that would allow loud live music, and fit our limited budget. We checked out about a half-dozen sites before ending up in the spot Red Rocks vacated. 


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How did you get the word out about it? You obviously were well-connected with a lot of different bands and artists; was it all just word-of-mouth? 

Yes, and flyers in parking lots. Later on, a fax brigade. Wala pang Internet noon.

Was it easy to find bands and artists to play at Dredd, considering  you had strict criteria about who you wanted to play there? (No Top 40, no cover bands, no show bands…)

The only main criteria we had was that the artists had to have original music. They could do covers, but had to also perform their own songs. We all gravitated towards rock, but were open to other music genres. The choice of bands was purely subjective—as long as a majority of us (Rob, me, the Racket Music guys, other friends/bands) liked a band, then they got a booking.

There weren't many bands in the local scene at the time. But since there were no other venues that wanted them, we had enough to fill the calendar. We knew most of them personally. Although when the band scene exploded, and everybody and his cousin had a band, we would have to hold auditions. It got to a point that there seemed to be more people that wanted to play in bands than those actually watching the show. 

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Who were the first artists to play there? Which new/upcoming artists do you remember playing at Dredd who you thought were really talented? 

We discovered Color It Red in Red Rocks. They were a crowd favorite already, so they became a regular at Dredd. The first bands to play in Dredd were already regulars at Red Rocks: Alamid (then Athena's Curse), Anno Domini/Mutiny, Dean's December, Runaway Boys, Ethnic Faces.

The Dawn and Afterimage were already big names but made it a point to play at least once a month, which was their way of supporting the scene. They helped upcoming acts, and also got to test new material. Of course our big discoveries were The Youth and Eraserheads. In EDSA it was Put3ska, Datu's Tribe and Parokya (ni Edgar). 

Describe a typical evening at Dredd Timog. 

We would open up around 6pm. The bands would show up shortly after to eat and soundcheck. The show would typically start around 9-10pm, and end around 2am. In the Timog days we would typically have one or two acts, either doing a couple of sets or one long set. Aside from weekends, our best weeknight was Tuesday, because that was when we would get the UP crowd. Most didn't have class on Wednesdays. That's usually when we'd sked the ‘Heads.

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The bands would play upstairs, while downstairs facing the street, we had a bar with a couple of tables. (It was) here where people would hang out if they weren't watching the show. We had many regulars that came over regardless of who was playing, and would just drink downstairs. Everyone knew each other. It was a watering hole for counter-culture types. You were always sure to find a friend to hang with any day of the week.

At any time there were interesting conversations downstairs (you couldn't talk upstairs due to the noise) with musicians, artists, filmmakers, writers, etc. On Friday nights at 9pm we all stopped everything to watch The Simpsons on our 14" Trinitron in the bar. 

Did any seriously violent incidents ever happen there? 

No. Everybody knew each other, so most conflicts were easily settled before they escalated to violence. 

Why did Dredd Timog have to close in 1993?

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We thought it would be so easy to run a bar! It was just a two-and-a-half-year-long party, until the beer ran out. We had little concept of inventory management, or pricing. No marketing except by word of mouth. Management by feel.

Towards the end of 1992, I saw that we would be unable to pay the rent anymore in a few months at the rate we were going. At the time, Rob and I were tired and scheduled our closing in February. It was funny though, after word spread that we were closing, we had a full house almost every night! It still wasn't enough to sustain the business.

The new Dredd along EDSA opened about a year later. How did you find the place? And why was it important for you to reopen?

I wasn't planning to. I was tired, and depressed with the failure, and I figured someone else would carry the torch. There was Kalye, Mayric's. Atrium had Weekends Live. Even Mars disco had bands every Thursday. But my sister had this idea that a Club Dredd run professionally, with a solid business plan, could actually thrive. She decided to make this business plan and market study her thesis for UP that even convinced my skeptical parents to invest in a new Club Dredd. We had the same challenge as with Timog, looking for a proper venue. The main criteria was it had to be larger, so we could capitalize on the crowds the big acts would bring in. 

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Was there anything you tried to do differently at the new Dredd? Or was it more of the same, just in a different venue? 

Timog was run DIY style. Management by feel. EDSA was armed with a business plan, and we hired professional employees like cashiers, waiters, kitchen staff, and accountant. We hired an experienced manager, Gene Santiago from Weekends Live, to handle operations. Aside from a larger venue, we spent on better sound equipment. It was more of a challenge to fill up the place though.

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Did you ever make money running Dredd? 

Not in Timog of course. EDSA was self-sustaining, and provided for me and my family. But we were never profitable enough to even buy decent aircons, or fix up the dreaded bathrooms. 

 

Whose idea was it to reopen Dredd in Eastwood?

I was done with the bar business, and music in general. I put up an IT company that I still run today. That takes up most of my attention. But in the early 2000s, my friends put up Gweilos bar in Palanca, and later on in Eastwood. Since Eastwood had two floors, they wanted a band setup in the second floor to maximize the space. They convinced me to do Dredd in the second floor. I agreed as long as I had nothing to do with the F&B operations. So I got Rob, Hank Palenzuela and Ferdie Formato to help with booking the bands, and we called it Club Dredd in 2006. It ran for about four years, til I, and eventually Rob, got tired. Bong (Baluyut) acquired the name though an ex-deal with the Gweilos Group. I thought he would be a good choice to carry the torch, but many didn't agree with that.

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Support your local artists. Buy their CDs, songs and merch, and for God's sake, pay the entrance fee!

People who were there speak fondly of Dredd. When you look back on it today, how do you feel about those "Dredd years?"

We happened to be in the right place at the right time. We were right in our belief that there was a strong demand for live local music and counter-culture. When the scene eventually blew up in the mid-90s, and many of our acts became platinum record-selling concert bands, it was very gratifying. I am glad to have had a part in providing a venue, and letting the scene grow for musicians and music-lovers.

I do miss my friends from those days. Some, like Dom and Karl, have passed away. The rest of us have all grown up and have careers, families, and adult responsibilities, so hanging out isn't as easy as it was before. We had so much free time before!

I still go out to watch bands, though not as frequently as before. As for the younger people who wish they had been there, all you have to do is catch a punk or new wave show at Mow's, check out Razorback at 70’s Bistro, spend an evening at Zilis, Route 196, Saguijo, or attend a launching at Cubao X. Rob and I often say to each other we feel like we've time-traveled back to Dredd whenever we go out to these shows.

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Support your local artists. Buy their CDs, songs and merch, and for God's sake, pay the entrance fee! Who knows, with your support, that upcoming band you are watching could end up becoming the next Eraserheads, and you can tell the next generation that you were there when they started. The "Dredd years" are still very much with all of us.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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